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Love Triumphs Over Racial & Cultural Differences More Scholarship Opportunities for International Students

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ISVMAG ( IN TERNATI ONA L S TUDENT VOI CE MA GA ZI NE ! ) We started International Student Voice Magazine in 2011 as a way for international students to share their experiences and advice while studying in the United States, as well as a way for American students to share their experiences while abroad. Seven years later, we continue to advocate for students by encouraging them to share their stories and provide resources. To date, we have awarded more than $10,000 in scholarships! This would not be possible without the support of so many people. First, thank you to our university subscribers. Thank you for promoting ISV Magazine as a way for your students to have their voices heard. Secondly, thank you to our readers and contributors. It is our pleasure to work with each of you to have your story heard around the world. Last but not least, thank you to our supportive sponsor, International Student Protection (ISP). Thanks to your genuine care and unwavering support, we are able to provide resources to students around the world.

Carrie Circosta Editor in Chief

Eron Memaj Managing Editor

We hope you enjoy reading this issue and you’ll continue reading at our website

A Special Thank You to:

Gulnaaz Afzal

Mee Vue

Home Country: India University of Cincinnati

Executive Editor


International Student Voice Magazine

Graphic Designer



2 from the editors 3 table of contents 4 love triumphs

over cultural and racial differences

6 appreciating the intangible as an international student 8 scholarship spring 2018 essay competition

10 ching-wen lin taiwan, university of findlay

11 claudia brito pires cabo verde, maryville college

17 polina durneva russia, cornell college

18 sirui chen china, kalamazoo college

19 youn young kim south korea, harvard university

20 katherine zacapa honduras, maryville college

22 scholarship fall 2018 essay competition

23 scholarship summer 2018 photo competition

12 hien nguyen vietnam, grand valley state university

13 lea lahoud lebanon, virginia commonwealth university

14 franck armand munana rwanda, maryville college

15 nachiket mehta australia, university of california berkeley

16 mariam mushtaq india, wayne state university

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racial DIFFERENCES Andrea Soleta, an international student from the Philippines, shares how her journey of pursuing the American dream led her to find the love of her life.


International Student Voice Magazine

Love is certainly beyond boundaries, and when we say boundaries, we mean it by all means. No sort of racial, religious, or geographical disparities can keep love birds apart. In this edition of love brewing over disparities, we bring you stories of true love that battle differences of all kinds to reach unison. In this story, we speak about Andrea Soleta, an international student from the Philippines, who left her native country to come to America and achieve her American dream.


or a young 18-year-old, coming to America was terrifying to say the least. But Andrea was quite determined that she would fight against all odds to be here, and with the support from her parents, she first came to the States in January 2010. Coming from a country near the equator, Andrea was welcomed in the new country with an onslaught of snow – something she had not experienced before in her tropical habitat. She explains her avatar and emotional turmoil of the day she entered on the American soil. “I was wearing flat shoes and pants in negative ten degrees temperature as I remember the exact date to be the 2nd of January, (my) nose was bleeding. (There were) only white people all around, something unusual in my country.” Things were difficult in the beginning in all spheres – emotional, financial, educational, et al. But when asked what made her come to the US at the first place, Andrea said, “(I was) really fascinated by foreign education. I had a goal. I had a poster of BYU (Brigham Young University) in my bedroom since childhood, featuring an airplane against the backdrop of the world map.” “I was just 10-12 years old that time,” Andrea mentioned, who first studied political science at the undergraduate level at Brigham Young University. Studying political science is quite an unconventional field for most international students, who usually throng engineering, business, and music majors. We asked Andrea what made her choose political science for her undergraduate studies. “Coming from the Philippines, I saw poverty first-hand. I wanted to help people who could not help themselves. I think education for kids will eradicate poverty as many people are uneducated, so we’re stuck in poverty. Political science will help me further in this regard.” Although her enthusiasm was sky-rocketing and she was all set to make all her dreams come true, Andrea faced initial setbacks while trying to settle down in an alien country. Of course, her family was several thousands of miles away which drove her towards emotional vulnerability, making friends posed to be another threat to this Philippines native. Her first friend in America was a Japanese girl and they could relate to each other because both of them were new to the States. She mentioned that it was difficult to make friends since there was a lack of relatability with the locals. Nevertheless, there was no looking back after that because Andrea made tons of American friends soon, who she now proudly calls, “my family.” These were six American girls, who first started off as friends and then transitioned to being best friends for life. Andrea says that they became better friends than her Philippines buddies too. With the help of these friends and her academic excellence, she sailed through

the four years of college – with some hiccups, of course – but handling it well for the most part as she graduated in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree. Now was the step to advance further in her educational life as she went on to pursue her master’s in international business from the University of Utah. Life wasn’t easy for her as she got rejected from so many jobs on grounds of visa sponsorship. She worked at the college cafeteria for several months to support herself. She always excelled in her studies and her passion for the craft reflected it. Finally, she got her first career breakthrough with a fully-funded internship in London at the House of Parliament. She reiterates that students must continuously apply to all sorts of scholarships. “I applied to all sorts of scholarships and did loads of networking and asked for scholarships always,” she said. In the second semester of her master’s program, something happened. Well, one day, when she went to the church, she met this guy, this guy who she describes as “cute and charming”. Amidst an activity taking place at the church, this guy – let’s just call him ‘this guy’ for the time-being – came up to Andrea and they started talking. Now, ‘this guy’ wasn’t just any guy. He was a medical student and a tall, handsome lad. Two months after meeting, Andrea and ‘this guy’ went on a date. Sparks flew fast as Andrea realized that he fit the bill perfectly – well-educated, good-looking, hardworking, Godfearing, and an altogether amazing guy! Things soon escalated as Andrea met his family, which was from Idaho, and she introduced him to her family over Skype. Both set of families were receptive of their relationship and everything went on very smoothly. When asked how the couple got along so well with each other, Andrea told proudly, “(We) had so many common goals and similar value system, so (there were) no cultural conflicts as everything was similar.” She continued, “It wasn’t hard to adjust to each other’s customs; very simple things that had to be explained to each other for open communication is the key.” “We are best friends, first. We can talk about anything together.” Andrea didn’t know what was coming up as one day she got an intimation that she was summoned by the bishop of the church. She was nervous, but she went to see him, there was no bishop, but Chris – oh, well, ‘this guy’ is Chris, surprise, surprise – and he handed a 20page long letter and asked her not to read it then. Suddenly, a drone appeared before them and he asked her to follow it. It led them to an orchid of mistletoes that came to life with Christmas lights and jazz music in the background. Her friends popped out from behind the bushes and yelled, “surprise” and as she was looking at them in awe, off came Chris on his knees asking Andrea to marry him! Beautiful! “We had everyone at the venue – our friends, his family, well-wishers, et al. Everyone was so happy. Chris’ mom flew down from Idaho. I missed my mom at the event; however, she facetimed us till three in the morning and was very excited,” Andrea gushed. “My parents and Chris facetime regularly. They have not met him so far but are very pleased with him and super happy for us.” This great compatibility transitioned to something even more beautiful as the couple decided to get married which is scheduled for May 2018. Chris is certainly a dream come true for every girl as he continues to learn Andrea’s native language, Tagalog, and speaks and texts in the language while communicating with her. In fact, they even have a “Tagalog Tuesdays” which imply to speaking only in the language all through the day on Tuesdays. Andrea cannot stop raving about her future husband as she continues to gush about

him, “Chris is doing global rotations in medical school and wants to do a rotation in Philippines. He wants to do rotations in the Philippines so that I could often see my parents.” Well, we see, why Andrea has such wonderful things to say about her fiancée – because he is just awesome! Andrea’s life story advocates how a young girl can come to America, study, work, and even find her ultimate prince charming. Her tale is inspiring, encouraging, and absolutely beautiful as it narrates her accomplishment of the American dream. Love changed her life and helped her get through the difficulties. However, her struggles were real and before meeting the love of her life, she battled all those problems singlehandedly. In her own words, the Goldman Sach’s employee says, “I understand it could be really difficult for international students the very first time. It takes time, it might take a year, or even years.” “Just teach yourself patience and be kind to yourself,” she advises. “Hard work, determination, and persistence are the ingredients for success. Keep working hard even while encountering failure regularly. And as my mom quotes: ‘It’s only when you give up, you lose.'” Well, we are just too proud and happy for this lovely lady, who took zero loans for her undergraduate and graduate studies and got funds from her parents, scholarships, and personal savings to sponsor her studies and attain the position she has earned today. It seems that Andrea was super lucky to have found Chris. But love is beyond being lucky, you meet whom you deserve. And beyond borders and cultural and racial differences, hard work, determination and persistence gets you to the right place gifting you everlasting love and happiness.

Cheers! Written by Gulnaaz Afzal Executive Editor University of Cincinnati


appreciatinG INTANGIBLE the

as an



Sid Thatham graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017 with a master’s in chemical engineering and an MBA. Since graduation, he’s been teaching at the university as Associate Professor – Adjunct and is a Public Affairs officer for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies


lot of the international students go to the US to study to learn about Howard Schultz, the then-CEO of Starbucks, via with strict expectations and social rules that determine YouTube. I was very impressed by how he spoke and did a fulla typical path of success and a check-list of achievements blown research on his life. I remember reading his book in class, that they are expected to satisfy. A 4.0 GPA, a job that pays in six with tears in my eyes because I could relate to his childhood figures, a fancy car, an H1B right after, and so on. Acquiring this and his up-brining a whole lot. He’s been a personal hero since laundry list of accomplishments determines if you’re successful in then. In 2017, a different friend of mine organized a leadership your society’s eyes or not. While we always recognize people for conference at my university. Since I had done some leadership hitting these milestones, there’s no public acknowledgement for work over the years, he put me on the organizing committee. One your perseverance through tough times, for those sleepless fine day, he told me that Howard Schultz was going to speak nights to overcome the odds, and so on – these are at the conference. I couldn’t believe it. equally important and satisfying achievements, Fast forward a few months, I had the opportunity Sid Thatham, albeit intangible. to meet Howard, go on a ‘tour’ of a Starbucks store I started studying in the US in 2012. In close-by and while my rich friend stood in line having been in the retrospect, I can list off the recognitions to get a cup of coffee, Howard Schultz asked me and honors I have received over the last five if I wanted one. Best coffee I’ve ever had! Haha. US since 2012, reflects years but my real achievements are the ones I wasn’t able to process what had just for which there was no public praise. While happened until after a few hours. It felt like all on his experiences and I am proud of whatever I’ve been able to those years of hard work on extracurricular shares advice for current work on campus, outside the class, outside my accomplish, I know that sooner or later, all the validation and the attention that came lab had paid off. It felt like I had this new found international students. hope, a new motivation that I didn’t have before. along with it will fade away and what will remain are the memories, the experiences and A drive, like never before; that if Howard Schultz the personal growth and understanding that came can be successful from humble beginnings, maybe along with it. Here are two of them. I can do something with my life too? Not to compare Growing up, as a kid in New Delhi, India, I had a healthy myself with him, but I was able to hope to see some light at the competition with my classmates for a chance to speak in the end of tunnel. And you can never really put a price on that. school assembly. We brought the best out of each other, at least as Having lived in the US for five years now, I can go on and on far as public speaking was concerned. In 2003, after my 7th grade, about experiences and memories that mean a lot. We live in a I moved to a new school in a new city. For the next two years, I world which rewards external/tangible accomplishments, but I had to deal with “Do you even listen to yourself? Your voice is encourage you to take a step back from all that and ask yourself what way too manly for someone our age!” You get the gist, right? My is your definition for a true ‘achievement’. Your universities and self-confidence took a huge blow and going on to the stage scared life in the US will give you chances to realize what an achievement me. Public speaking terrified me. Stage fright had taken over. means to you. They don’t call it the ‘land of the opportunity’ Fast forward to 2016, I got invited to do a TED talk. How for nothing. Some of you have already accomplished a lot; take that happened is a story for a different day, but all those opinions some time to revisit those internal triumphs, those hard-fought about how I sounded would come back to haunt me. It felt like battles. Acknowledge them, value them. While money, power, those voices in the 8th grade had drowned mine. I had heard of and position are important, appreciate what doesn’t involve any TED talks and watched a couple of them as a college student in of that. I’m sure life would seem more fulfilling. India. When I decided to study in the US, I had a dream to attend a live TEDx event and nothing else. To be invited to speak at one, I never thought that would happen. I went on to do it anyway. Standing under blinding spotlights knowing that I was in front of 800 people watching me, that feeling of having finished that talk…I’ve never felt a rush like that before. It wasn’t just about a TED talk, it was more than that. I had something to prove to myself. It almost felt like I had gotten my voice back. It felt like I had silenced those 8th grade bullies. It still gets me, but I feel so much better about myself now, just that I’m sad I wasted all those years living in fear of what people would say, that I squandered away all those opportunities that came along. If you’re a student, especially in grad school, chances are that you drink a lot of coffee to do your thing; assignments, literature review, research, etc. I did too, brewed my own coffee. I used to live off of coffee, peanut-butter and apples. Sleep and cooked food were luxuries I couldn’t afford because time of was the essence. I certainly couldn’t afford to buy the amount of coffee I consumed in a day. In a conversation about caffeine, a rich friend said, “How do you even drink regular coffee? I only drink Starbucks! I can afford it!” Almost felt like a slap in the face. In 2015, I got




International students can face several challenges while studying in another country. For our spring 2018 scholarship essay competition, we asked students to share what challenges they face while studying in the United States and what they do to overcome those challenges. Our team received more than 100 applications from students representing 41 countries from around the world, all studying at various universities and colleges in the United States. Our team read these essays, truly impressed and inspired by this group of students. They did not let fear of the unknown stand in the way of pursuing their dreams of studying abroad. It was an extremely difficult decision to select a group of finalists, and from these finalists just one winner. Please join us in congratulating the following 10 finalists: Ching-Wen Lin, Taiwan, University of Findlay Claudia Brito Pires, Cabo Verde, Maryville College Hien Nguyen, Vietnam, Grand Valley State University Lea Lahoud, Lebanon, Virginia Commonwealth University Franck Armand Munana, Rwanda, Maryville College Nachiket Mehta, Australia, University of California Berkeley Mariam Mushtaq, India, Wayne State University Polina Durneva, Russia, Cornell College Sirui Chen, China, Kalamazoo College Youn Young Kim, South Korea, Harvard University

Please join us in congratulating the winner of our $500 scholarship Katherine Zacapa, Honduras, Maryville College

Congratulations again! You can read more essays submitted for this scholarship by visiting our website




As I started to get used to stepping out of my comfort zone, I found joy, happiness, and respect in many forms.



International Student Voice Magazine


ogi Berra once stated, “Baseball is 90 percent mental; the other half is physical." This is true for the sport and for all the challenges that people face in their lifetime. As the distance between countries are shortened by airplane mileage, there is less time for people to be mentally prepared for the unknown upcoming challenges. The biggest challenge is not the weather, it could be overcome by wearing more or less clothing; the biggest challenge is not the language, efforts could be put in to learn and master it; the biggest challenge is not the food, people can always make the food of their choice. The biggest challenge, however, is when the beliefs that you were once told and held accountable, starts to crumble and then you are faced with questions. Suddenly, uncertainty occupies my mind and I started to question myself and look for answers. I decided to join different clubs on campus and socialize with people who share different backgrounds than I do. I listen more and speak less, so that I can be focused on what other people are saying and understand their thinking process. It was difficult to start with and even harder to maintain, putting oneself onto a journey that leads to the unknown is terrifying. There was a time I attempted to return back to my comfort zone, however, I was pushed forward due to my curiosity. During this process I reconstructed my thoughts, parts of my old beliefs were tossed away, so that new beliefs and lessons could find a place to stay within me. Midway through this journey, an oasis appeared and diversity enriched my life. As I started to get used to stepping out of my comfort zone, I found joy, happiness, and respect in many forms. As Nate Berkus once stated, “You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” I withdraw my stereotypes toward other ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, and religions. I welcome new experiences and adventures in my life. Amy Poehler shared the thought at the Harvard graduation commencement in 2011, “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” I am happy to step out of my comfort zone and put my passion into service at the University of Findlay to assist in the promotion of diversity.




from the


aya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Before coming to Maryville College, I never really paid attention to that quote in specific. It bared no meaning other than the awesome author behind it. Little did I know, it would be my daily life. You see, I was born in a country that the world doesn’t know exists, part of a continent fueled by stereotypes. And when I got here, for my surprise no one knew about Cabo Verde and somehow some assumed that Africa was a country and not a continent. I was confused. My entire life I learned about all the continents and countries, but most importantly I was sure people out there knew that we were not just a speck of dust in the middle of the ocean. But now I questioned my identity. If the world doesn’t care enough to learn about my country and continent, maybe we are not as important I as thought. I remember one day I was so frustrated because a student asked me if I “ate bugs like the other kids in Africa”, that I went to my advisor and he told me, “That is one of the reasons why you are here, to teach people about the wonders of Cabo Verde and break the stereotypes about Africa.” And so, my journey began. Easier said than done. I, an introvert, who barely spoke with people my age, was going to teach an entire school about the wonders of a place that does not even appear on the map. Yeah sure. I had better chances fighting a lion (that does not exist in my country). But I had to do it. I mean, Cape Verdeans are not known to be quitters and I was not about to start now. Luckily I had classes that I was required to do presentations and write papers on whatever, and as part of my scholarship I had to be a Cultural Ambassador, which was a fine way of saying, “you have a great excuse to use the phrase “But in my country…." or “When I was home…” without being excluded from


the society. I started small. GCO (Global Citizenship Organization), a club that promotes cultural diversity, gave me the opportunity of doing a cultural presentation for the school. Later, the African Studies Professor asked me to help him out with his classes and other Cultural Ambassadors and I went to middle schools and after-school programs in the area. I held dance workshops and even photoshoots to promote cultural diversity. We did everything possible. We are heading the right direction. I mean, it wasn’t easy, but I had the International House backing me up. Of course sometimes I would feel useless because I would go out and would be faced with the same stereotypes I was trying to break. But this time I was not alone. I had an army of friends that knew about my history, knew about my people and knew about the importance of telling my “untold story” to whomever was willing to listen. And thanks to them, today I am in a place where people know about this beautiful little country, lost in the middle of the Atlantic, that takes pride for being part of the African community and history. And it is funny how I’ve been telling people so much about my country, that a group of students is trying to get a trip approved to go to Cabo Verde for a cultural exchange expedition. And who knows, if we get approved, Cabo Verde will be welcoming Maryville College student leaders and future Cultural Ambassadors of United States of America. All of that, to teach me how important it is to be true to who I am and be open to get out of my comfort zone. And I only had to cross the Atlantic to learn it.



Hien Nguyen



hen I came to America at 18, I felt small all the time. It’s not because of my 5'2" height, but because of the feeling that my voice was tiny in a big school. No matter how many people thought I had a solid American accent, or how many were surprised that I was a foreigner, I didn’t feel I fit in at all during my freshman year. A new set of tags like “the Asian girl,” “the international student” or “the Vietnamese girl” was both fun and overwhelming to me, and I felt the responsibility to represent my culture and fight the stereotypes. At the same time, I went through the identity crisis of that of any college student goes through. Am I supposed to enjoy partying and drinking like my peers? How do I fit in? Or, am I good enough in my major? As of today, I cannot say that I don’t have these questions anymore, but my answers to them are much more confident than what they were before. During that freshman year, my insecurity was as big as a truck, but my curiosity and enthusiasm were 1% bigger, so I raised my hand in lectures instead of staying silent like my classmates did. I asked for clearer explanations in club meetings when I didn’t catch them the first time. I started as small as volunteering in some student events and before I even knew it, my task grew from moving the chairs to writing press releases for a TEDx event at my school. I am grateful for my curiosity and insecurity. They have motivated me to actively go out and create opportunities for myself, even in days I felt like a two-inch tall stranger in a foreign country. One of the ways I overcame my insecurities was by developing a support system here in the US. I am fortunate to have found like-minded friends that I am comfortable being myself around. Not only we have common interests in culture, but we are always open to sensitive topics like race or mental health and we can share our vulnerabilities with each other. To reach this level of friendship, it took me so long to find the right people and to develop the relationships, but the wait was worth it. I know that international students want to feel they fit-in in a new environment, but this doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to blend into the culture. I have seen many international friends go to party settings they weren’t comfortable in, or surrounded themselves with people who were not willing to understand their cultures. In the end, these situations only made them feel even more alone during their abroad experience. The fact that I felt small during my freshman year made me want to grow as a storyteller so I could make room for people who felt the same way. In 2017, I made a video called “4 things about alone and abroad,” talking about embracing the alone time when studying abroad. In January 2018, to my surprise, the video got featured on a fan page in Vietnam and received around 10k shares among Vietnamese study abroad students on Facebook. The video has opened more conversations about the challenges when studying abroad, about the same lonesome and uncertainty that many, many people share, but don’t talk about openly. Studying abroad represented by the media has always been filled with bright colors and opportunities, but people rarely talk about the beautiful but challenging identity crisis an international student has to go through. In my journey, I have learned to be a self-starter, a patient friend, and a storyteller. The person I am today has grown much taller than the 5'2" freshmen international student.

you might be

alone but you're not


ALONE AND ABROAD 4 điều về du học một mình


International Student Voice Magazine




The grass is greener on the other side”; this was my motto before I came to the USA to be an international student in patient counseling. Before my long trip, all my focus was on my dream, which is, to complete my Master of Science degree in pastoral care at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), USA. The first day I arrived here, I discovered another reality, a reality of hurdles and challenges that disappointed me to a point that I was about to give up and go back to my country. I then sat with myself and thought that life is all about hurdles, no matter where I am or what I am doing. I have decided to be stronger than those hurdles and keep walking, until I reach the goal I crossed the seas to achieve. “I am really worried babu, I heard about some guy shooting an Indian in America. Are you safe?” She sounded not only concerned but terrified. “Is everything all right for you?” The cultural challenges were the toughest and roughest. My grandpa used to say: “If you drive in Lebanon, you can drive anywhere.” Driving in Lebanon is kind of reckless. Yes, my grandpa was totally right when he said this. It is true that you can drive anywhere, but my grandpa had no idea about the importance of a driver license in the USA. I had to re-take the DMV driving test twice in order to learn that the stop sign in the USA really means stop, not rolling wheels, which is very common in my country. Another major challenge was the fact that I had to wear casual business clothes when in the clinical environment. Being a nun in a conservative country, I’ve been wearing my religious habit for twelve years. When I came here, I learned that there is a dress code that I had to respect. I had to wear regular clothes, which was very hard for me. In order to overcome this challenge, I began to cover my head with a cancer scarf. Eventually, I figured out that no one cares what I wear in this country. In our country, if someone invites you to eat, he will keep asking you to eat, to a point that if you do not want to eat, you just eat to make him happy. Here, people will invite you to eat only once. If you say no, that’s it. In Lebanon, I used to say no the first three or four times before I said yes. Here, I learned to say what I want the first time I am asked. The first time I met my supervisor, I had an interview with her. My mouth was very dry from fear. My supervisor asked me if I wanted water and I said no. She began the interview, and in my mind, I was thinking, “Oh my! I thought there would be another chance!”

Lea Lahoud LEBANON, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY The academic challenges were also a big annoyance. The first challenge was the language barrier. It is true that my English is not really bad, but it is also true that some people speak extremely fast and use a myriad of slangs that I do not understand. People may also have a different accent that my ear is not yet accustomed to hearing. I will never forget that day when I was trying to help a patient fill out a form. I asked her about her address and she said “shreet.” I made her repeat it twice, and she yelled at me saying, “Come on you!” I then figured out that she meant “street.” At first, I used to get irritated and frustrated whenever someone spoke to me and I did not understand. Now, I just try to be humble and ask people to repeat, in other words what they said, telling them that I am not from here and my English is weak. Through this way, I learn new slangs; I get to understand what has been said. Another thing that drove me nuts was using humor with my peers. The translation of my jokes were misunderstood most of the time. Instead of making them laugh at the joke, I made them upset, trying to figure out what was funny in what I said. For instance, we have a famous proverb in Lebanon that says, “We are in the midst of a funeral, and the dead is just a dog,” which means that you all are frustrated and overwhelmed but the problem is very small; it is not worth it. In Arabic, this proverb sounds very funny; everybody laughs when they hear it. Here, no one understands it; in addition, dogs are very important for the Americans, which makes the joke worse. I try to be more serious and straight to the point unless I am sure that what I’m going to say is crystal clear. The third challenge is the emotional one. My people in Lebanon are seven hours ahead, which makes the communication very difficult. By the time I get home, everybody is sleeping. My home is 58,000 miles away, which makes it also impossible to enjoy a cup of coffee with my twin brother. In order to overcome this challenge, I found other ways that make me enjoy my stay here and how to benefit from new experiences. I met many new adorable people here, who made me feel that I am at home. For instance, I go regularly to Ethiopian families and enjoy the coffee ceremony they have as a tradition. I also learned how to enjoy my own company, using art skills to design uplifting cards for patients to make their days brighter during their challenging times in the hospital. Another thing that I miss in my country are my bees. I am a beekeeper and have 40 hives that I truly miss. In order to keep remembering my bees, I decorated my room with bee posters, quotes, and figurines that inspire me whenever I am lonely in my room. Last but not least, challenges are human companions from birth to death. Solutions are always available. In a few months, I was able to overcome most of the challenges that I faced while studying here. Overcoming those challenges made my life more interesting and more meaningful. It also made me feel that I am able to do the impossible in order to make my dream of getting my master's in the USA become a reality!



edUCAtiON sYstEM S

witching in education systems was a real struggle, but in the end it was beneficial. I am from an East African country known as Rwanda. The official languages are French and Kinyarwanda. Speaking of my education, I have always studied in French, as all my classes were in no other language than French. I took a couple English courses at my high school, but they were just basic and the number of hours offered were so few that there was no way I could speak it fluently. After I graduated high school, I had the choice to pursue my higher education in either Canada or France in colleges that follow a French curriculum. Instead I took a different turn. There is a number of reasons that motivated me to come to the US. First, the US provides a well-rounded education that I admire, especially the whole concept of liberal arts. Secondly, my school of choice, Maryville College, had the major in which I want to pursue, finance and accounting. Lastly, I wanted to strengthen my communication skills in English. The first class I took in college was Religion. This class focused on the New Testament and required a lot of reading. Attending class in another language was strange and at times I had difficulties keeping up with the information the professor was providing us. While in class, I felt out of place. I was there seated in my chair, quiet as a statue while I saw everyone else participate in class discussions. That really made me feel out of place and put me aside because I was there to learn and the fact that I could not contribute in the class discussions due to my language barrier made me think that I could never be able to speak English. I was shy to speak and even more, I was afraid of saying something that nobody would comprehend. Moreover, the way the professor spoke was so fast that I could only partly catch the information that was being discussed in the lecture. One of the moments that I currently laugh at is when I copied the information from the textbooks and pasted them in Google translate. That way, even though they were not a hundred percent translated in French, at least I would get the main idea. It was really complex to do all the work required in English because I would take more time trying to understand before I took action. Assignments were one of the most difficult tasks. When I settled down to write, the words did not come to me. Nevertheless, I had plenty of ideas and I knew exactly what I wanted to write, but to find a way of expressing my thoughts in proper written English was a challenge. I decided to make drafts for every single assignment and take them to the Maryville College Writing Center. Another approach I took in order to better my writing, as well as process information quickly was reading books and reading journals in the library such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. This method was so effective in a way that it enforced my vocabulary and reinforced my writing skills. As the number of reading and assignments kept accumulating, I got familiar with the work in general. At first, I was worried that my first semester as a freshman was going to be a complete disaster until I discussed with my professor the obstacle I was facing. She was kind and understood my difficulties and offered me extra support. During tests and finals, I got to have a little more time than required to complete and double check my paper. Most of my classes require a lot of readings and writings so I am getting better at it. All in all, coming here was one of the best decisions I have made so far. I entered in college with a language barrier in English, but as the fall semester came to an end my English improved and it is still improving. What I learned through this experience goes beyond how to write or read college papers. I learned how to be open to new challenges; I have learned to be more productive, to be open and get out of my comfort zone and more importantly, I speak English better than I did before thanks to the staff members at Maryville College. I never thought that I would enjoy learning my third language like I am today. I highly encourage anyone to learn another language. As what I have encountered, communication is among if not the most essential element in today’s society. Nowadays, everything starts with a conversation. Learning a language one is not familiar with can be very tiring and complex, but the benefits I got out of it in the end are worth the struggle.



International Student Voice Magazine


RAbbiThole Nachiket Mehta



y freshman semester in college in the US, as an international student from Australia, was like falling down a rabbit hole. Yeah, I’m going to use an analogy – you wouldn’t have guessed, but college essay habits still stick! You arrive in the US looking over the precipice - swimming in an ocean of advice from mother and father, extended family who you’ve spoken to once in the last five years, and jokingly unhelpful friends. On top of this, you have your own game plan, which of course, you trust more than everything anyone else has had to say. The bottom line: you have goals and you’ve decided that once you put your feet on the ground in the US, you want to figure out how to achieve them. The rabbit hole awaits. Most kids from foreign countries, without tertiary education systems as hyped or as robust as the United States, will agree with the fact that college here is a lot. A LOT at once. You start college and down the rabbit hole you go. But you don’t know it, not yet at least. Your descent is slow, and the walls are lined with information, knowledge, and opportunities. You try grab at everything, while your college tells you “How much they are happy to have you there … What resources you have access to as a new undergraduate… Guides on ‘surviving college’...” You listen and take it all in. Semi. You attend two of 2,000 career fairs, and recruitment information nights for **insert tech company** scheduled that week and start [over]thinking about employment. A job. Something that is four years away. GPA and what you are doing outside of class suddenly become the be all and end all. You start asking around for what business clubs to join, what professors to pick, which classes qualify your grade boosting requirements, how you should plan out your summers. “Dude, reckon I should start applying for banking internships my first summer, or my second. Or wait, do I even want to do banking?” Indeed, it is no secret that starting out somewhere completely new is going to be overwhelming, and for me it most certainly was. Answering all these questions, all whilst trying to make new friends, trying to accommodate your personality into a whole new culture without losing that individuality you said you had in your CommonApp, is difficult. Juggling all the balls you picked up on your fall down the rabbit hole of freshman semester, it is inevitable that you drop some. Your grades. Your gym schedule. Your contact with family and friends back home. More importantly, your passion. The things you actually love doing. The subjects you actually care for, not the ones that are easy and will ensure you graduate with a 4.0. Subjects you are willing to argue about. Sports you used to play, but now no longer have time for in between meetings for clubs you’re not too sure why you joined. I think it is very easy for us to get caught up in the nitty gritty of college life in the US and lose sight of the bigger picture. I think all the information and opportunities we are treated to does us good, but also has the potential to drown out our individual interests. For me, it was very challenging to tune out this overload of “things I could be doing” and finally start listening to “things I want to be doing”. We all fall down the rabbit hole when we start, but at some point, we need to take a step back, ask ourselves why we are here in the first place, and get on with doing that.



gLObAl cOMMUnitY B

eing an Indian citizen, born and raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, moving back and forth to India and being labeled as a “Non-Resident Indian” - I guess you could say I have always had something called an identity crisis. When my parents decided to send me to the United States for my MBA I was immensely excited - until I got on my flight. When the flight took off, I could feel my heart sink as I realized I would be away from home for a very long time. The biggest challenges that I faced while studying in the United States was in my first semester - culture shock and homesickness are only to name a few and not to forget the process of understanding and getting used to the American education system. Information on class registrations, university policies and certain restrictions that international students have are conveyed to us in such a large volume and sometimes too much information can be hard to take in and process all at once. I guess what I am collectively trying to say is that the most prominent challenge faced by international students is the lack of time. However, with a little bit of help, determination and patience, you can overcome this challenge. As the time passed, things started to settle down and I realized that asking for help goes a long way as people in the United States are always ready to help or at least will point you to the right direction. Meeting other international and exchange students has the biggest impact on my stay here as I not only make new friends from different countries, but also learn about their culture and are able to relate to the transition to the United States while experiencing and exploring the United States of America. To make this easier, a German exchange student started a student organization, “Internationals @ Wayne State”, which was handed over to me when she had to leave. Ever since, I have made tons of friends from all over the world like South Korea, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, etc. and it has been the most amazing experience. This organization does not just cater to international and exchange students, but also Americans who are interested in meeting people from different backgrounds. Being a part of this group has helped me to help other students who experience and face the same challenges that I did when I first came to the United States. In the end, it is safe to say that my stay in the United States has definitely helped in resolving my identity crisis. How? Going back to the original question of how I overcame the challenges that I faced while studying in the United States - the answer is simple, I became part of a global community.


International Student Voice Magazine




n 2013, I came to the United States as a participant of the Future Leaders Exchange Program, which is a competitive US governmentsponsored program with the acceptance rate of 2%. After my completion of the program, I was enrolled in Cornell College, a liberal arts school, from which I will be graduating in May of 2018. In the fall of 2018, I am starting a PhD program in information systems and business analytics at Florida International University. The path I took from being a high school exchange student to being a PhD candidate was full of struggles and obstacles not only because of the height of my ambitions, but also because of my international background. Coming from a developing country, I faced a series of challenges that I learned how to overcome and that gave me the freedom to be myself. When I try to recall the main challenges that I faced over the past five years, several things come up to my mind. First, I think about the drastic difference between American and Russian cultures. I think about my first days in America when I was puzzled and confused by overwhelmingly friendly strangers that could come to me at any moment, say hi, and compliment me about my pretty earnings. The gap in mentality was so huge, and people’s values were very different. To cope with this confusion, I found American friends, who taught me about the culture and became involved in a high volume of different extracurricular activities. These definitely expanded my understanding of American mindset and cleared some confusion I had before. Second, another challenge that I faced when I came here was homesickness. This is quite common among international students. It is hard to deal with homesickness, but there were several things that helped me. I tried to stay busy and involved in as many different things as possible. During my first year in college, for example, I was a writer for my college’s newspaper, a communication manager of an entrepreneurial club, a member of Russian Culture Club, and the leader of Russian Conversation Club. These activities were a great distraction from homesickness for me.

Finally, another challenge that I have faced is the maintenance of the feeling of belonging. During my first two-three years in America, I often came to realize that I did not quite belong anywhere. My American friends had a completely different childhood than I did, played games I never played, and watched cartoons I never saw. This feeling of isolation from others and loneliness also followed me every time I visited home. It was hard for me to relate to some inside jokes and conversations of my Russian friends, whom I hadn’t seen for a year or so, and follow the new trends. More than often I caught myself thinking that now I don’t have a home and I don’t know where I belong. Only over the past three years I finally found a way to get rid of this feeling by setting high life goals and following my ambitious thoughts. I travelled a lot, met so many new people, and learned how to find something common with all of them. It did take me a lot of time and effort to become open-minded, diverse, and being able to bond with different types of people. I worked on myself and now happy to feel at home wherever I go. From California to New York, my home is everywhere. The difference in mentality, homesickness, and the feeling of isolation were the biggest challenges I overcame. It took me about five years to overcome them and become the person I always wanted to be. Five years in the USA taught me how to become strong, independent, and free; and there is nothing else I can be more grateful for.

Polina Durneva



you are not alone


HOME you have never left

Sirui Chen



still clearly remember what my mother said to me before I came to America. She told me the story of eagles—how eagles “brutally” push their children out of their nest, so that they can learn to fly through struggling. She also told me that home is the harbor of my heart and that it is always open whenever I want to go back. While she prepared me for all the challenges I might face in America, she also inspired me to strive toward the goal of contributing to the betterment of the world through a positive mind and actions. She once half-jokingly said, “You are the child of the world, not the child of mine.” Thus, at the age of 14, I was determined to become a “global citizen,” getting ready to experience a different life in a foreign country. Bearing tears in her eyes, my mother knew how much we both sacrificed for this opportunity. She hoped that I could get better education and a broader horizon from standing on a global platform. Like many other international students, I not only experienced language barriers and academic pressure in America, but also cultural obstacles that rendered me seeking for my self-identity and affirmation during my teenage years. I used to cry because of the feeling of not fitting-in in my school community and ponder for hours the purpose of coming to America. However, despite of all the obstacles abroad, my mother has instilled in me a quality of resilience to accept adversities. I knew that I could not give up without trying. I started to reevaluate myself and think back to my original aspiration—using the knowledge I learn to benefit others and make a positive impact on the world. My goal may sound ambitious or even cliché in the eyes of some people, but I believe that taking each step at a time, everybody has the capacity to make a change in the world and turn dreams into realities. I delved into my roots during reflection, contemplating the place I came from and the qualities I possessed. Interestingly, the more I studied the cultural traditions of my own country, the more I was in love with them. For example, I started to see and learn the beauty of Chinese calligraphy. To share my appreciation of my own culture with others, I became a Chinese teacher’s assistant. In the Chinese lab, I taught students vocabularies and conversations, as well as arts, history, and traditions in China. I enjoyed telling my students everything about my country because this allowed me to gain inner confidence and to unveil a huge part of who I am to others. I was also passionate in learning the Chinese traditional instrument called Guqin. Guqin has over 3,000 years of history, and it is filled with the richness of the profound Chinese culture and history. I had wonderful experiences performing it in our school. It was beautiful to see that other people can also appreciate the calming and pacifying tones of Guqin as well as I do, listening to the stories told through the same music played thousands of years ago in ancient China. Searching more deeply into my cultural roots, I realized my potential in bringing valuable and positive messages to the world. Not only me, but other international students are also sources of empowerment. Discovering that other international students had similar experiences like me, I made a documentary about the struggles and ways they overcame obstacles in America. I wanted to shine a light on their strength and personal growth in the process of problem-solving while studying abroad, and to enhance the understanding between us and the American students. Encountering and overcoming challenges in America, I realized that I have never left home because home is always in me. Every memory and piece of culture empowers and encourages me to confront new challenges in the future. Home is a heartland filled with treasure that I can keep exploring, and an infinite space that welcomes the world and everybody in it.


International Student Voice Magazine



Since you are an international student, you need to bring this extra document. Please come back when your documents are ready.” It felt like the BMV lady was secretly saying, “We don’t like you being in our country, get out.” It was my third day at the BMV trying to get my Indiana drivers license, yet I was let down again. I was still short of a certain document “since I am an international student”. Being an international student in the United States is unquestionably challenging. The romance of having a perfect life, just like in the movies, is bound to disappear within a few days. It might even disappear within a few hours of entering the country, when the immigration officer is bombarding you with questions with an unnecessary frown. Four years in the United States as an undergraduate international student has been an experience that is challenging, but surprisingly rewarding. I discovered that the key to overcome those challenges is being patient. It sounds cliché, but it works. When faced with a challenging situation, I tried my best to be patient. When it ran out, I would I let out the fumes, then I would go back to being patient. One of the challenges that I faced immediately after entering the US was dealing with public affairs. Whether it was a bank account that I was trying to open, registering for a drivers license, filing taxes, or leaving the country during breaks, they all required multiple steps and documents. Workshops provided by schools on how to do those things were somehow not enough because I was often denied by the system no matter how much I tried to be prepared. Being patient during times like these was extremely difficult, but it was bearable. It was worth it to give one more try – to try again the next day, because in the end it worked out. I would often get frustrated because I felt like I was being denied for no particular reason except for the fact that I was an international student. However, I kept pushing forward and was able to accomplish everything that once felt impossible. Another major challenge was when building relationships with other domestic students because of our differences. Questions such as, “How do you say this word in Korean?” or “What do you think of North Korea?” would immediately ruin my mood in the beginning. I did not want to be reminded that I am an international student and that I was different. Questions as such felt like an underlying attack against my race. However, it was moments like those where I chose to be patient. I would answer their questions and even ask other questions back to them. Soon enough, I was able to become friends with people that once had upset me with their questions about my race. Being patient has helped me not only understand that these differences are natural, and that most times people are genuinely just curious. Building any kind of relationship takes patience and I believe that extra patience is needed when building a relationship with people from different backgrounds. Coming from a fast paced, quick tempered background, it was a challenge trying to be patient with the US systems, people, and myself. Nevertheless, being patient has shaped me into a person who is not trying to simply survive in a foreign country, but rather thrive at such an opportunity. The dictionary defines patience as the ‘capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without being annoyed or anxious.’ But instead of going by rules of the dictionary, I chose to let myself become annoyed and anxious at times, and then decided to give just one more try – that is how I overcame challenges as an international student.




tudying abroad is the best experience anyone who is searching for personal growth could have. Of course, any international student can attest that. Usually, people only look at the Facebook pictures and good moments, but the experience is not just laughs and happiness. International students confirm that studying abroad is the best experience not for these moments, but the hardest ones which make you stronger. Lessons such as laughing at yourself for your language mistakes, learning how to address problems on your own, or being able to ask for help without being ashamed of it. Apart from all of that, I believe the hardest challenge faced as an international student in the United States is to break preconceived stereotypes between Americans and international students. Something I have constantly heard from other international exchange students is how hard it is to make American friends outside of the classroom. Phrases such as, “We should definitely hang out sometime!” or “Let’s go eat sometime, I would love to get to know you better!” are very common. In a lot of cases, you never talk to that person again. At times, it is hard for American students to break that fear of meeting the unknown, in this case, the international student. This is a challenge for international students since first of all, we are alone in this big country wanting to make friends and then we face this cultural barrier. So imagine, knowing someone, your very first American friend, and hearing from them “Let’s hang out sometime!” The thought of making your very first American friend is so exciting! But then you never hear from them again. It is a bit disappointing in a sense. A good way of fighting this is by taking the first step and contacting them yourself. It is hard to approach people and we don’t want to look needy, but getting out of your comfort zone is the first step towards a successful abroad experience. You already took the hardest step, which is being here in the first place! Don’t be scared. Then, the second hardest challenge is that we all have preconceived stereotypes and sometimes facing them catches us off guard. An example of this is my experience with the LGBTQ+ community. I come from a very conservative country where homosexuality is still a taboo. As a product of that, I have never been very involved with the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t judge them or have anything against them, but I had never dealt with people who had different sexual preferences. When coming to the USA, a much more liberal country, I have been more involved with people who have diverse sexual preferences than mine. At the beginning, it was bizarre for me to deal with people different than me because there were preconceived stereotypes of them that I had from my conservative country. Many times, as international students, we do not reflect on these beliefs and how they hold us back. We are so focused on the fact that we are different and we forget what we all have in common: we are all humans. When going to a culturally different country, it is vital to observe and understand why you and others think the way they do. Understanding yourself is something crucial to being able to accept those around you. Preconceived stereotypes are challenges you and those around you are facing. For this, it is very important to have an open mind and to reflect on your way of thinking and the thinking of those around you. Understanding is relevant to not judge and to create bonds between all of us. In the end, we are all humans trying to not feel lonely.

R e n n i W Katherine Zacapa


International Student Voice Magazine



FALL $500



EXPERIENcE from your life




it influenced who you are


Acce pt i ng appl ic at ions Aug ust 1 , 2018





International students have a chance to win a $500 scholarship by participating in the 2018 ISV Magazine Summer Photo Contest. Show us what life is like in a new country and you could win! All eligible entries will be posted to an album on the International Student Voice Magazine Facebook page. Fans can pick their favorite photos by “liking” them in the ISV Magazine Facebook album.





There will be


$500 SCHolarship

Eligible students include:

International students studying in the United States (J-1 or F-1 visas) during the 2018-2019 academic year. This includes exchange students, ESL, bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD students.

Before winners are announced, student eligibility will be confirmed via email with the Editor in Chief. To learn more and how to apply, visit our website


Spring 2018 International Student Voice Magazine  

This issue features the finalists and winner of the International Student Voice spring scholarship contest. International students share how...

Spring 2018 International Student Voice Magazine  

This issue features the finalists and winner of the International Student Voice spring scholarship contest. International students share how...